Students Vote With Their Feet Following Tuition Fees Hike

15/08/2012 11:26 BST | Updated 15/08/2012 11:26 BST

A recent report from the Independent Commission on Fees has shown that the increase in student tuition fees, which could see universities charge annual fees of up to £9,000 a year, has had a major effect on university applications.

It is not just because many students are now avoiding applying for university - on average applications to English universities are down almost nine per cent - but also because students appear to be changing the way in which they select universities.

Cost and value for money, rather than courses, facilities and nightlife, are now having a much greater influence on university choice. As students start to shop around to get more for their money, privately backed universities, a relative newcomer to the higher education marketplace, are beginning to grow in popularity.

Another recent report from UCAS has shown that student applications to private institutions have risen by approximately 56 per cent , a marked contrast to some publically-funded universities which have seen applications drop by as much as 25 per cent.

Despite their popularity throughout the rest of the world, the UK has been slow to catch on to the advantages of private institutions. Over the last four decades just six institutions have opened, however it seems that students are rapidly beginning to recognise the broader benefits they can offer including, in some cases, more personal tuition and faculty members with significant up-to-date experience in the business world.

Private universities receive no money from the higher education funding councils, so their tuition fees are not set by the government, and can cost as little as £6,000 per year so it is unsurprising that more students are exploring what this route involves and the financial and flexibility benefits it can offer.

As their popularity continues to grow, criticism from traditional universities about these institutions upsetting the applecart can of course be expected, but the increased competition and choice through the addition of private universities can only be a good thing for those considering higher education options.

The increase in tuition fees is seeing students become more discerning than ever before, which must drive the higher education market to be more progressive. It is the dawn of a new era for higher education, particularly in England where students are less likely to benefit from free or subsidised tuition, and these recent figures show that students are clearly voting with their feet.